Turkey escalates assault across Syrian border
Shells and rockets landed in several Turkish border towns on Thursday, killing four civilians, one of them an infant, and wounding 70, on the second day of Turkey’s air and ground offensive against a U.S.-allied, Kurdish-led militia.
At least 23 Kurds were reported to have been killed, a monitoring group said.
U.S. military and national security officials say that by allowing the attack on the Kurdish fighters, who did the heavy lifting in the fight against the Islamic State, the U.S. risks repeating a scenario that helped pave the way for the Iraq war.
ISIS: The American military is working to remove as many as several dozen Islamic State detainees from Kurdish-run prisons in Syria. The U.S. already has in custody two British men who tortured and killed Western hostages.
Fact check: President Trump, under sharp bipartisan criticism, defended his decision to allow the Turkish offensive by saying that the Kurds had fought with the U.S. only out of self-interest, adding, “as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the Second World War.” However, there is evidence that some Kurds fought for the Allies.
U.S. arrests add new twists to Ukraine case
U.S. law enforcement officials have arrested two Ukrainian-born American businessmen named in the whistle-blower account that set off the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
The web is complext. The two were accused of engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office. The indictment also connected them to an effort to remove Marie Yovanovitch from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
They had also played a part in the pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate Democrats, helping arrange for the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to make connections to Ukrainian politicians.
Scene: The men were arrested at Dulles International Airport near Washington, with one-way tickets out of the country, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said. Hours earlier, a Wall Street Journal reporter spotted them eating lunch with Mr. Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Ukraine: At a marathon news conference at a food court in Kiev, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Mr. Trump had not sought to blackmail him over military aid in their July phone call, the focus of the whistle-blower complaint.
Free-speech tensions shadow U.S.-China trade talks
An N.B.A. game in Shanghai went on as scheduled Thursday night, and patriotic vitriol on Chinese social media began to subside.
But Beijing officials have put growing pressure on the American basketball league to apologize for a Houston Rockets executive’s tweet of support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The N.B.A., citing free speech, has said the executive won’t be punished.
The frictions could play into the 13th round of trade talks that began in Washington on Thursday. While a limited agreement appears possible, the White House has also weighed options for escalation, including the possibility of disrupting the flow of capital between Hong Kong and mainland China if it determines that Hong Kong’s autonomy is not being respected.
U.S. options: The ideas the White House is considering, according to people familiar with the discussions, would move its negotiating tool of choice beyond tariffs toward limiting China’s access to American capital markets and imposing greater scrutiny on its companies. Closer ties with Taiwan are also being studied.
Related: After intense criticism from China, Apple took down HKmap.live, which let protesters in Hong Kong track the police.
A hate-filled screed from attacker in Germany
A locked door saved the synagogue.
Only that kept the gunman who killed two people in the eastern city of Halle on Wednesday from getting inside, where, according to a manifesto he published online, he hoped to kill as many Jews as possible.
The police have identified the suspect they arrested as a German citizen, but the manifesto was written in English. “He wanted to have a worldwide effect,” said Peter Frank, Germany’s federal prosecutor.
Shared online: The gunman’s head-mounted camera streamed the attack to Twitch, an Amazon-owned video platform that has struggled to police its content. Twitch apologized and said that only five people had watched the shooting live. About 2,200 people viewed a recording before it was removed.
If you have six minutes, this is worth it
Robotic help for gymnastic judges
Gymnastics officials are making artificial intelligence technology available to judges at this week’s world championships in Stuttgart, Germany. The robot judges made by Fujitsu, each about the size and shape of a Wi-Fi router, use three-dimensional laser sensors to track the gymnasts’ movements in displays like the one above.
Baseball is already experimenting with robot umpires, and tennis is starting to expand electronic line-calling. For now, humans have the final say.
Here’s what else is happening
Nobels in literature: The Austrian writer Peter Handke won this year’s prize, setting off a controversy because of his friendship with Slobodan Milosevic, who as president of Yugoslavia was widely seen as the driving force behind the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The Polish author Olga Tokarczuk won the postponed 2018 prize. The peace prize will be announced today.
Brexit: Britain’s faltering negotiations with the European Union got a lifeline from an unexpectedly upbeat meeting on Thursday between Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland. Both said they could see “a pathway to a possible deal” to handle issues over Northern Ireland.
Typhoon Hagibis: The organizers of the Rugby World Cup canceled two matches as Japan scrambled to prepare for the storm, which is expected to make landfall over the weekend.
Koalas: Researchers studying why the marsupials are plagued by certain diseases have found them to be star subjects for research in how viruses can insert themselves into an animal’s DNA — and sometimes change the course of evolution.
Snapshot: Above, spectators at a World Cup soccer qualifier at Azadi stadium in Tehran. For the first time in almost four decades, women were allowed to attend a match in Iran.
Elon Musk: The administrator of NASA is meeting the SpaceX chief at the company’s headquarters in California, weeks after the two exchanged tense words on Twitter and in the news media. They’ll be taking questions from reporters at 5 p.m. Eastern (8 a.m. Sydney) on a live stream.
What we’re reading: This Wired article. “Why the PG&E Blackouts Spared California’s Big Tech HQs,” writes Adam Pasick, on the Briefings team. “The reasons are fascinating.”
Now, a break from the news
Smarter Living: Our Climate Fwd: newsletter collected advice for parents on helping kids through anxiety about climate change. Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a founder of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, suggests listening to their fears, but then pivoting to solutions. You can describe people and organizations working to help and discuss steps you’ve taken as a family or as individuals to reduce your carbon footprints.
Plus: A new review of studies suggest that people who own dogs live longer.
And now for the Back Story on …
‘Wag the Dog’
Since the White House abruptly announced it would allow Turkish forces to begin taking part of northeastern Syria, the phrase “wag the dog” has been bandied about.
For instance, Meghan McCain, co-host of the ABC talk show “The View” and former Senator John McCain’s daughter, characterized the disruption in U.S. policy as a “wag the dog situation.”
The phrase comes from a longer saying: “the tail wagging the dog,” which dates to the 1870s, according to Dictionary.com, and “indicates a backwards situation where a small or unimportant entity (the tail) controls a bigger, more important one (the dog).”
Fiction got there long ago. In the 1997 movie “Wag the Dog,” a spin doctor working for a scandal-plagued U.S. president fakes a war with Albania.
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See you next time.
Chris Stanford helped compile this briefing. Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford wrote the break from the news. Claire Moses, a London-based home page editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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